When they had seen Jesus, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed… (Luke 2:17-18)
Seasons Greetings from Kent! How are you holding up through this busy season of the year? We’re doing well (I hope you enjoy the enclosed Prayer Card, complete with a new family picture / prayer card!). Believe it or not: we actually feel more relaxed this holiday season than we’ve felt in a few months. It took us awhile to find our groove at the start to the school year with the rush of collegiate ministry, Marci doing graduate school (in addition to teaching English as a Second Language), and two kids now in middle school. Fortunately, the boys’ sports schedules have shifted (colder weather = indoor soccer = fewer facilities = fewer practices) and Kent State University’s Fall Semester is winding down, so we’re enjoying some much-needed family time. We hope and pray that you, too, will be able to find ways to rest and reflect in the coming weeks.
Ministry is also doing very well these days. In fact, I feel like this has been one of the most fruitful semesters in collegiate ministry I’ve ever experienced! I’m especially encouraged with the way the students of H2O have become more engaged in what we call “The Outward Journey” — reaching out to share the love of Jesus with the unchurched people around them. I was especially encouraged by our baptism celebration last month, in which ten young men and women shared the way they encountered Jesus and openly “spread the word concerning what had been told them” about him. Much like the shepherds who went out from Bethlehem with glad tidings for the people of ancient Judea, it seemed like the students getting baptized encouraged everyone within earshot with their proclamation of faith. “All who heard it were amazed.”
Stephanie grew up in an unbelieving household. She suffered from social anxiety but felt compelled to seek God in the midst of her anxieties. It was difficult for her to reach out for help, but she said: “Lucky for me, H2O found me, and suddenly I was surrounded by the most wonderful people and involved in life group and the Well and Special Events Team and Sunday worship…” She heard the Gospel in the first month of the school year, and later that week she had her own encounter with God in her dorm room, while reading the second chapter of Ephesians.
Tommy was raised Catholic, but his family stopped attending church when his grandmother died. At Kent State University, his roommate kept inviting him to H2O — and Tommy kept refusing for weeks. One Sunday, however, he finally relented. That morning, a phrase from the sermon cut straight to Tommy’s heart: “You’re not here by accident. You’re here for a reason, and that reason is Jesus.”
Jana came from a strong Christian background. She felt like she already had everything figured out when she got to Kent. In her early experiences with H2O, however, she said: “I saw everyone else around me experiencing Jesus in a way I really wanted to, but I didn’t know how.” In the spring of her freshman year, she felt God speak to her at H2O’s Women’s Weekend: “Listen, I have so many more things planned for your life than what you’re going through right now. I want you to know that I’m going to be there for you, and you just need to say ‘Yes’ to me.” Within a couple of months, she broke up with her boyfriend who had become something of an idol in her life. And ultimately, she chose to be baptized as an expression of her renewed faith in Christ. She said her goal in getting baptized was to “express publicly that I now know that Jesus Christ is my savior, and I have a renewed faith in Him — and I know that He’s going to continue to pursue me as I pursue Him.”
Amazing stuff, isn’t it?!? Believe it or not, these are just a small sample of the stories that were shared during our baptism celebration! I encourage you to visit the on-line forum where H2O shares all of these stories: The Stream (http://h2okent.tumblr.com/). You can see and hear all of these “Snapshots” of students’ spiritual journeys — putting faces and voices with the names and testimonies — along with many other stories and reflections from students on a wide variety of topics. I play something of an editorial role for The Stream, but almost all of the content for this website comes from students. I think you’d be pretty encouraged to see and hear from many of the lives that your prayer and financial support is helping to touch.
Anyway, at the end of this calendar year, we wanted you to know that we’re trusting God to help provide some extra funds to meet our year-end goals and position us for continued progress in the year to come. Specifically, our goal is to raise $7,500 in special gifts to help cover a shortfall in 2015 giving and to prepare for our family’s participation in a Leadership Training summer project in 2016. Would you please think and pray about helping to meet this goal? I know that a lot of great missionaries and organizations are also busy with year-end fundraising — but we would be honored by your consideration at this strategic time of the year, when holiday bonuses are provided and year-end giving is determined. We are extremely appreciative of what you’re already doing to partner with us in life and ministry. As you feel led, though, please consider helping us in the following ways:
- A special gift. An additional gift of $500, $300, or $100 at the close of the year is a significant way that God provides for our yearly budget, and it will be especially strategic in providing the means for strategic ministry initiatives in the year to come.
- Giving via LifeLink. If you give regularly by mail, please consider a switch to this automatic, secure service. It saves on administrative costs, ensuring more goes directly to Gospel work.
- Increasing your regular giving amount. A new year means a new missionary budget. We’ve picked up some extra costs with health care and lost some support through natural attrition. We would be blessed if you could help meet our budget increases for 2016.
As Kent State University’s Fall semester wraps up in the next couple of weeks, I hope to give you a call — both to catch up, as well as to see if you’d like to help in any of the ways mentioned in this letter. In any event, though, I just want to say that we are extremely thankful for all your support throughout 2015! We look forward to everything God will do in the year to come. We’ll be in touch…